Before the National Hockey League All-Star Game became a corporate slurp fest and player voting turned into which fan base had the most roll over minutes, it was about recognizing players who had the best first half of the season. Looking at the rosters of the Wales/Eastern and Campbell/Western of the 1980's and ‘90's, it's a virtual who's who of players who either wound up in the Hockey Hall of Fame or are a part of the annual debate of who should be elected in.
Within some of those rosters are players who, looking back today, you might do a double take and ask, "That guy was an all star?" We took a look at the rosters from the past 20 years and picked out some players who stood out like Zdeno Chara at a peewee hockey game.
Note: All-Star games from 1998-2002 were excluded because players, who might otherwise be questionable choices, were picked for the North America or World teams because of their place of birth.
Craig Billington, 1993, Wales Conference
While Martin Brodeur was honing his Vezina Trophy-winning skills with the Utica Devils during the 1992-93 season, the New Jersey Devils hitched their wagon to Chris Terreri and Craig Billington who both split time. Through the first half of the season, Billington posted a 15-9-2 record and along with Scott Stevens, represented New Jersey in Montreal for the All-Star Game.
The next season, thanks in part to expansion drafts and the need not to expose on their goaltenders, Billington was dealt to Ottawa and the proceeded to go 11-41-4 for a Senators team that only won 14 games during the 1993-94 season. Because of the deal, Billington missed out on playing three games a season for the rest of his career and watching the Devils go on a couple of Stanley Cup runs.
Peter Sidorkiewicz, 1993, Wales Conference
The man who went the other way in the Craig Billington trade was former Hartford Whaler (!) Peter Sidorkiewicz. An original Ottawa Senator, (the current version, not the one founded in 1883), Sidorkiewicz represented the Wales Conference, along with teammate and Commissioner's Selection Brad Marsh, after throwing up a 4-32-3 first half record. And you thought Mike Komisarek making the Eastern Conference team was a crime.
After the '92-93 season, Sidorkiewicz played only four games in the National Hockey League while spending the majority of the rest of his career in the American and International Hockey Leagues.
Garth Butcher, 1993, Campbell Conference
Hockey doesn't have enough Garth's in it anymore and that's a real shame. Garth's Snow and Murray carry the torch at the moment, but back in the early ‘90's, Garth Butcher seemed to be all the rage. That was until noted Chicago Blackhawks fan Garth Algar came along.
Butcher made his only All-Star Game appearance thanks to an injured Jeff Brown. Despite his lack of scoring prowess, Butcher likely was selected due to the lack of Garth's on the Campbell Conference roster.
Scott LaChance, 1997, Eastern Conference
An injury to Zigmund Palffy and the fact that the NHL wants every team to be represented (even though they publicly deny that policy) is the reason why Scott LaChance was the lone New York Islander to represent the Eastern Conference in San Jose.
Despite having Kenny Jonsson, Bryan McCabe, and Bryan Berard also on the blue line, LaChance got the nod and was one of two Islanders players, along with Mathieu Schneider, during the "Fishsticks" era to play in the All-Star Game.
Mattias Norstrom, 2004, Western Conference
The NHL's "representation" policy strikes again. Other than a young Alexander Frolov or an aging Luc Robitaille, Los Angeles didn't have a big time forward that would have overtaken the Nash's, Datsyuk's, Sakic's, Naslund's, Iginla's, and Modano's on the West roster. Enter Kings captain Norstrom, one of nine players who were their teams' only representative.
While Norstrom was fortunate for the NHL's "policy", he was also was lucky enough to get to wear one of the better All-Star Game jersey's in recent memory.
In the comments, let us know some of your favorite All-Star Game selections of the past that raised an eyebrow or two.
- Craig Billington
- National Hockey League
- Wales Conference
- Garth Butcher
- Campbell Conference